With Christmas only a few days away now is the perfect time to look back on what has been an interesting year for horror. Now I say interesting because this years calibre has been a bit of a mixed bag. There have been some incredible titles released this year that were shown in cinemas and on the festival circuit but there have been others like Ouija, Annabelle and Devil’s Due which all fell short and deserved to have gone straight to video sentenced to life in the deepest darkest corner of hell and forgotten about (if they haven’t been already).
I will say one thing though and 2014 has been a wonder for independent horror especially on the festival circuit as there have been some horror films that not only met expectations but exceeded them leaving me wishing that one day modern horror films will once again become scary and original again. The reason I say this is that thanks to franchises like Paranormal Activity and Saw which famously churned out sequels and their lesser somewhat cheaper imitations since have tainted the minds mainstream audiences making them forget what a scary movie actually is.
Call me a horror snob or not but I can’t stand it when a film tries to be scary by throwing a shedload of jump scares accompanied with a loud blast of music. This is not scary, it’s just annoying! As a genre fan I want to be creeped out, to have my level of acceptability challenged and have icy cold chills down my spine. Or I want to enjoy a solidly crafted slasher film or creative monster movie. I don’t however want to watch the same studio produced horror-by-numbers which is something I’ve seen a hundred time before. So reading this it should come as no surprise that the majority of titles in this list were seen during the UK festival circuit.
So which 2014 horror films ticked the boxes for me. Which ones stood out from the crowd and cemented their place in my black heart? You’re about to find out but before I start to list the ten films that I think deserve the title of Best Horror Films of 2014, here are three honourable mentions that are certainly worth checking out (when you get the chance to).
One part dirty harry one part wolfman, Wolfcop is directed by Lowell Dean and stars Leo Fafard in the title role. The film follows an alcoholic cop who is called to investigate a disturbance in the nearby woods only to be caught up in a ritual sacrifice and is cursed to become a werewolf. A definite crowd pleaser, the film features some truly hilarious moments and a werewolf transformation that begins in a place you will never have imagined. It’s a Troma-esque film with a much bigger budget where every bit is enjoyable and inventive.
He took us to the swamp to battle the villainous Victor Crawley in his Hatchet trilogy, he had us pinned to our seats when Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell were stuck on a chair lift in Frozen but in his latest project Digging Up The Marrow, Director Adam Green will have us pondering one question… do monsters exist? I refuse to reveal anything further about this film and with good reason as I believe without doubt that this is Adam Green‘s best film to date. It’s fun, It’s scary and is a must see for any self respecting horror fan. Look no further for spoilers online, just seek out the film, sit back and enjoy every minute of this gem that I am certain will become a cult classic.
The Grandad of found footage, Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project) returns to the genre once more for his latest effort Exists. The film follows five friends who are on their way to a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend of fun. But, on their arrival they quickly discover that the cabin is located inside the lair of the legendary Bigfoot. Featuring outstanding special effects and a monster that seemingly has a sense of intelligence and rationality about it, Exists is thoroughly entertaining and twice as scary as last years Willow Creek. It also has one of the most effective jump scares i’ve seen all year round.
Now before we get to the films that I think deserve to be hailed as the best horror films of this year I want to remind our readers that this is based on my own personal taste and will most probably differ from others. That said, I would like to bring to your attention my favourites which I believe are the Best Horror Films of 2014 (in no order).
This mockumentary from the team behind the popular TV series Flight of the Chonchords is best thought of as the Spinal Tap of vampire films. Not only does it stand neck and shoulders above other vampire films but does so with respect to the very material it plays homage to. There’s a killer Lost Boys reference that will have you howling like a werewolf at the moon and a joke that will change the way you think about a sandwich. But what is very pleasing about this film is that it possesses the ability to keep its flow of jokes consistent. That said, when you have Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement in front of and behind the camera you simply can’t go wrong. So if you like your horror with a double serving of comedy then What We Do In The Shadows is fangtastic and just for you.
Inspired by the shocking events of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, Director/Writer Ti West teams up with Eli Roth for his stab at the found footage sub genre. With a solid script and superb direction, West commands attention from his audience quickly and holds it firmly in a vice-tight grip thanks in part to the sense of isolation and heightened anxiety that gradually develop into a terrifying sense of dread. It’s cast are equally as good. AJ Bowen delivers a solid performance but it is Gene Jone’s performance as the compound’s leader that steals the spotlight. He creates a villain with the ability to literally draw you in to his way of thinking as his motives come from a place of reason. Intriguing and harrowing, The Sacrament still holds its power on repeated viewings and it is for that reason I recommend you to check it out.
When you discuss a werewolf film inevitably comparisons are made with such classics like An American Werewolf in London however very few manage to fully capture its sense of creativity or ferocity. Well in this case Adrian Garcia Bogliano comes incredibly close to doing so with Late Phases, a geriatric werewolf horror. Telling the story of Nick Damici (Stake Land) as a war veteran who moves into a gated retirement community only to survive an attack by a large wolf like beast. With his neighbours concerned over his sanity Ambrose (Damici) must figure out a plan to stop the monster from attacking again. Both Damici and Ethan Embry (Cheap Thrills) do a fantastic job to sell the realism of the film but the true star is its special effects. The wolf transformations are fantastic and are done mostly practically which I thought was amazing.
Winner of Best Special Effects Award at the Sitges Fantasy Festival, Afflicted is the lovechild of Canadian filmmakers Clif Prowse and Derek Lee and sees the the duo play best friends that find their one in a lifetime trip thrown up in air when one is struck by a mysterious illness. In desperation to find the source, the duo must come to terms with what has happened before things spiral out of control and the chaos consumes them both. Utilising the conventions of the found-footage sub genre this film puts the audience right into the middle of the fray making the experience thrilling and that much more enjoyable. For example, a chase sequence on a rooftop perfectly blends CGI effects with filmed footage to create an unforgettable sequence that will leave your jaw on the floor. Simply put, Afflicted does for horror what Chronicle did for superheroes.
If you were low on cash and came across this little ad in the paper offering $1,000 for a days filming would you do it? Director Patrick Brice does in his claustrophobic chiller Creep. Without using foul language, excessive gore or constant threat of violence to shock its audience, Creep instead builds its scares naturally through solid acting and some very out there moments that are simply unnerving. Speaking of acting both Brice and Mark Duplass show amazing chemistry on-screen demonstrating their true acting ability. As a typical Blumhouse film you can expect quite a few jump scares but fear not these only serve to heighten your vulnerability as its vice-tight grip on you never dissipates. Just keep an eye out for PEACHFUZZ.
No one can ever accuse Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead of never delivering something different to your average horror film because they certainly do. Their previous effort Resolution was a real genre-bender and nothing changes with their latest effort Spring. Effectively combining the sweet romance of Before Sunrise with horror elements inspired by An American Werewolf In London, Benson and Moorhead have delivered a truly unique love story that you will remember for years to come. Benson’s script is intelligently written and his co-direction with Moorhead is superb. Together the duo show plenty of artistic flare that is difficult to resist as a genre fan. Overall, I absolutely fell in love with this film and I’m confident you will too.
Inspired by such Italian Giallos as The Beyond, Opera and Tenabrae, The Editor is the latest project for the Canadian film collective Astron-6 who have written, directed and starred in this thoroughly enjoyable homage. Also starring Paz de la Huerta, Laurence R. Harvey, Tristan Risk and genre legend Udo Kier, the film utilises vivid colours, bizarre angels and throws in black-gloved killers and gruesome death scenes to perfectly capture the spirit and feel of the Giallo. Admittedly I am not a fan of the Giallo but it says something when a film as fun as this has made me want to return to the sub-genre to revisit a few more titles. Overall, The Editor is a satisfyingly fun film and truly deserves more viewers so check it out when you can.
Till Kleinert‘s impressive German horror Der Samurai has been hailed as a gay liberation piece and features a fantastic performance from from Pit Bukowski as a sword wielding menace and from Michel Diercks as Jakob, the young police officer with the task of bringing him down. Packed with mystery and blood thirsty carnage, Der Samurai is expertly directed by Kleinhert and looks beautiful on screen. This film may have some very graphic visuals that might affect those of a nervous disposition but for me this film is a compelling thriller and it is for this reason that I recommend checking it out.
Mike Flanagan‘s flair as a director and screenwriter is remarkable. With Oculus he has constructed a strong concept at its core which he executes masterfully catapulting his audience on a roller-coaster ride that is not easily forgotten. Yes there are a few jump scares scattered throughout the film but the intricacies of its interweaving timelines in the last hour make Oculus truly compelling viewing. The cast are fantastic. Karen Gillan is effective in the lead and it is great to see her in something other than Dr. Who. The real star of the film is Katee Sackoff as she delivers a solid performance and as such, I would love to see more of her on the big screen in future. Creepy and unsettling, Oculus for me was one of this years most strongest horror films.
If you haven’t heard about this one yet then you will soon. Director Ivan Kevanagh‘s The Canal is one of very few films that truly managed to scare me. Following a film archivist whose life is turned upside down when his wife goes missing, The Canal is incredibly tense and unbelievably scary. Flawlessly directed and superbly acted by Rupert Evans and Steve Oram, this film is a whole package. Containing some of the most horrific imagery that still sticks to me to this day, I guarantee you that it will send icy cold chills down your spine as a result. The Canal is a highly engaging and incredibly tense horror and it is for this reason that it makes this list.
So there you have it ten of my favourite horror films of 2014. I would like to thank you for reading and before you go, I would also like to recommend that you to check out Chad Archibald‘s Splasher The Drownsman, Zack Parkers shocking Proxy, Tommy Wirkola‘s excellent undead sequel Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead and Jennifer Kent‘s The Babadook which has a phenomenal performance from Essie Davis that can only be described as outstanding.